I thought I’d chime in for a moment and share an article that my colleagues from the Américas Award just passed along to me. If you haven’t done so yet, check out the New York Time’s recent bit on “For Young Latino Readers, an Image Is Missing”. The author, Motoko Rich, observes that the typical stories we read nowadays in our elementary classrooms (like the Magic Tree House or the Diary of a Wimpy Kid) are devoid of familiar images for our students of color. The issue of lack of representation in classroom texts is one which our blog constantly tries to redress, but it’s refreshing to see it appear in a mainstream newspaper.
We’re always on the lookout for research or articles like this one, so let us know if you hear of anyone else doing similar studies or tackling the topic!
This week our WWW post continues the theme of Día de lo Muertos. For those who are not yet tired of this vibrant holiday and are still diving into the spirit of learning, teaching, and practicing its traditions, I bring you the Smithsonian Latino Center (SLC). The SLC works to ensure “that Latino contributions to the arts, sciences, and humanities are highlighted, understood, and advanced through the development and support of public programs, research, museum collections, and educational opportunities at the Smithsonian Institution.” Among the wide breadth of Latino educational resources, the SLC also has an entire website dedicated to Día de los Muertos. The website highlights the fourth year of their annual Día de los Muertos festival activities as well as supporting resources, including:
- Articles (scroll to the bottom of the main page).
- 3D Dancing Calavera — an interactive section for kids that allows them to be immersed in dance, music, and traditions of the holiday.
- Virtual Museum exhibition — live and recorded streams of workshops with mural artists and musical performers and other museum events around the holiday
- Theater of the Dead — an interactive section for both kids and educators that provides background content, fact sheets, and lesson plans.
I hope you get a moment to step back from constructing calacas and shaping cempasuchitl petals to explore this fun, engaging site.
Continuing our theme of Américas Award winners, here’s another one that was a Commended Title this year: Sylvia and Aki by Winifred Conkling (Tricycle Press, 2011; Gr. 3-6). In addition to the Américas Award, this slim novel also took the 2012 Jane Addams Children’s Literature Award for Older Readers, the 2012 Tomás Rivera Mexican American Children’s Book Award, and was a selection of the CCBC Choices 2012 (Cooperative Children’s Book Center). Kirkus Reviews called it “A well-documented, quietly powerful story.”
Monica Brown, award-winning author of children’s literature, has done it again. Alongside illustrator Julie Paschkis, she’s claimed the Américas Award book award for her recent publication, Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People.
The Américas Award has described the book as “a paean to renowned Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. A warm, lyrical text is embedded in soothing, color-saturated pictures. Streams of words – to delight the eye and ear – infuse the illustrations with surprising gems of multilingual word associations. They are a highlight of the book. Both provide a child-friendly introduction to aspects of Neruda’s life and, most prominently, to his passions for the natural world and the social concerns of his times.” Kirkus (starred review) also said of it, “More than a heartwarming portrait of Chile’s most revered poet, this splendid tribute to Pablo Neruda animates his global appeal with a visceral immediacy capable of seducing readers of any age…A visual and thematic stunner.”
It’s been dubbed appropriate for grades 2-5.
Want to read more? Check out Monica Brown’s website (which has a wealth of resources) or the visual richness of illustrator Julie Paschkis’s website.
Hello all! Now that we’re back into August and getting ready to kick off the 2012-2013 book group sessions, I’m back to sharing ¡Mira, Look! postings about new authors and titles.
Have you heard of the young adult novel Mexican Whiteboy? Katrina and I have been running into this title everywhere we look. Neither of us have had a chance to read it yet, but we’re both intrigued.
Doesn’t the title say it all? It’s an International Children’s Digital Library. And it’s free! Books are searchable by country and award-winning, as well as through the traditional categories. North and Central America have 493 titles; South America has 103.
While browsing I came across a lovely little book in Spanish that was released in 1995. It’s titled “Intik’a: How the Taquileo island was not an island but a very tall mountain that was called Intik’a” and was written by Cronwell Jara Published by the North American Cultural Institute of Peru (ICPNA) & National Library of Peru (BNP), it ” is a magic story where men, birds, and gods talk and then create a document in which they describe the mythical thought of the people of the south Peruvian Andes.” The author, Jara, has been recognized for adopting a “perspective related to a view of authority as an oppressing force” and for elevating “ordinary men and women to the category of heroes” (Núria Vilanova, “The Emerging Literature of the Peruvian Underclass,” in Bulletin of Latin American Research 17(1), 1998).
Did I mention that the site authors have suggested teachers incorporate these books into their classroom through group story reading? If you have an Internet connection and projector, students could read right along with you and enjoy the illustrations being larger-than-life.
Since the very first book I chose proved to be a gem of beautiful verbal illustration and tacit social justice, I’m going to keep searching to see what other gems are in this free digital library.
I just came across this neat website for the Mexican publishing company, “Ediciones Tecolete.” Their website can be displayed in either English or Spanish and they offer an innovative way of browsing their titles. I mention it because just searching their website can be a learning experience in and of itself, let alone reading the books they actually produce. You can mouse over intriguing categories like “Wisdom and Ruses,” “How to Read Codices,” or “Great People for Little People,” and then learn more about their funky titles within each category. As if that weren’t enough, they also have a separate page dedicated to “Play” with a game focused on matching book covers.
My favorite one in the mix? “Emiliano Zapata, how his followers saw him” looks, at least from what I can tell online, like a fascinating and unusual account of Zapata’s life. It’s a bit out of my pocketbook range, but I’m definitely adding it to my imaginary bookshelf. I’d love to hear if any books catch your eye!
I am pleased to suggest another author who will be joining us soon here in Albuquerque: Jorge Argueta! Argueta is an author of over a dozen wonderful bilingual children’s books, including “Guacamole,” the newly-released third book in his bilingual cooking series. “Guacamole” follows in the footsteps of “Sopa de frijoles/Bean Soup” and “Arroz con leche/Rice Pudding.” Argueta has won the Americas Award as well as the Independent Publishers Book Award for Multicultural Fiction for Juveniles. Across the spectrum of his work, he manages to touch on matters of familial traditions and inheritance, traditional storytelling, indigenous practices, and cultural metaphors — all told with the perspective and focus of children. As if that weren’t tempting enough, Argueta partners with amazing illustrators who match his writing with beautiful imagery.
For the teachers reading this, I also want to add that a good number of his books have related teachers guides. You can see the list of his titles and their associated guides by visiting the Children’s Books section of his website. Also, an article in Rethinking Schools (Summer 2010) magazine, talks about how elementary teacher Elizabeth Schlessman “uses the poetry of Jorge Argueta to help students express their feelings about leaving one country for another.”
If you’re a teacher and you’re in Albuquerque on Saturday, April 21, 2012, from 10:30-1:30p.m., you might consider attending a special, creative writing workshop for Spanish Elementary Teachers. Jorge Argueta will lead the workshop alongside Israel Centeno, a Venezuelan writer. The event will be in the Domenici Education Center at the National Hispanic Cultural Center. To register, call the Spanish Resource Center at (505) 725-4743.
AMENDMENT (4/26/12): I just discovered the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL) (see post above) and realized that at least one of Argueta’s books is available! You can e-flip through the pages of his book “A Movie in my pillow: Una película en mi almohada“!
I don’t mean to deluge you with endless ¡Mira, Look! postings, but I have one last tidbit to share with you before next week: ¡Sí, se puede! This is a particularly special book for me to post about, because the book’s illustrator, Francisco Delgado, is actually joining us next week in Albuquerque to lead a professional development workshop for teachers. He’s going to present on “Teaching About the Border and Social Justice With Art” on Tuesday, April 10, 2012, from 5-8 p.m. at the LAII. Talk about an exciting speaker!
Delgado’s work is broad, encompassing a range of community interests, social activism, education, and art. ¡Sí, se puede! is indicative of those interests. The book covers a serious topic (the “Justice for Janitors” strike that took place in L.A. April, 2000), with sensitivity. Cinco Puntos Press, the book’s publisher, describes it with the following: “Carlitos’ mother is a janitor. Every night while he sleeps, his mother cleans in one of the skyscrapers in downtown L.A. One night, his mamá explains that she can’t make enough money to support him and his abuelita the way she needs to unless she makes more money as a janitor. She and the other janitors have decided to go on strike. Will he support her and help her all he can? Of course, Carlitos wants to help but he cannot think of a way until he sees his mother on TV making a speech in support of the strike. Finally, Carlitos knows how he can show his mamá how proud he is of her. He and the other children in his class make posters and Carlitos joins the marchers with a very special sign for his mom! Si, Se Puede! has an essay written by acclaimed author Luis J. Rodriguez about Dolores Sanchez, one of the women involved in the L.A. Janitor’s Strike. The book also has a poster with a poem by Rodriquez, and information about unions directed to grades 4-6.”
This book, much like The Streets Are Free, is an excellent resource for discussing social justice action and agency with your students. Check it out through the Zinn Education Project, where there’s also a link to an article by Linda Christensen of Rethinking Schools talking about how to use the book in all grades!
In The Streets Are Free, readers become enveloped in a tale that describes how “For the children of the barrio of San José de la Urbina in Caracas, their only playground is the busy streets. Where once there were fields and streams, the landscape is now defined by local towers, sewers, and highways” (Zinn Education Project). The book begs the obvious question of “are our streets free?” If not, where can our children go to play if they do not have access to formal, public infrastructure like parks and playgrounds?
A children’s book written by Kurusa (pseudonym for a Venezuelan anthropologist and editor, according to the Zinn Education Project) and illustrated by Monika Deppert, this is a book for teaching about social justice. And it’s not a pie-in-the-sky effort to do so. Based in real events, it depicts a realism bordering on optimism. A review from Library Thing tells us that “This delightful and empowering book is my favorite storybook in my extensive multicultural library that I’ve grown over the decades for my innercity classroom. It tells the true Venezuelan story of children who, with the help of the librarian, organize themselves a play space. Remarkably, it relates the two needed strands of organizing: pressuring the government (or other power structure) to do its job, and bringing the community together to do what the government can’t.”
If you’re interested in using literacy to introduce social justice topics to your classroom, and to empower your students to think about their own agency, consider this book. It’s beautifully illustrated and really does a remarkable job of conveying how young children (most suited for ages 4-9) can be at once respectful and defiant of the power structures that overlay their lives.